WHEELING - Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said back in April, ''I think the bunt is an overrated play.''
Maddon might have changed his mind if he was in attendance at the I-470 baseball field Tuesday when Cambridge Post 84 beat Wheeling Post 1, 5-3, with the help of some key bunts.
''A lot of people don't bunt,'' Post 84 manager Ron Antill explained. ''I like to bunt. I think it's a quality weapon. You even see it in the major leagues, guys screw it up. That's what got us going.''
Wheeling’s Mario Peroni delivers a pitch against Cambridge Tuesday night.
After Cambridge (9-6) got its first hit of the day in the seventh inning, Matt Tom laid down a bunt that was misplayed by Wheeling that resulted with runners on first and second.
Antill must have liked what he saw as he called in another bunt as Ryan Lovette stepped to the plate.
Lovette executed the call and sent the ball down the third baseline where it met third basemen Jameson Murry, but Murry overthrew first basemen Nate Bakaitis to give C.J. Beaver time to score and moved Tom to third and put Lovette on second.
If it worked twice, why not try it third time?
That's what Zach Roe did as he popped up a bunt that landed in between Bakaitis and pitcher Mario Peroni that scored Tom to give Cambridge a 2-0 lead.
''This is about the third game this year that bunting has got us going,'' Antill noted. ''I think we bunted three consecutive times and they didn't get anybody out.''
A Jimmy Antalis sacrifice fly drove in Lovette and Roe added a run on another Wheeling throwing error to put Post 84 ahead 4-0.
''It's our players not being in the right positions at the right times,'' Wheeling coach Ricky Szeligo pointed out.
''We went over in practice and we tell our players before the game if they're confused about the signs and what not, we'll go over them again. We just didn't execute. That's what it comes down to.''
Cambridge added another run in the eighth after relief pitcher Justice Jackson missed Jesse Heartly on a pickoff attempt that gave James Luyster time to score.
Wheeling (9-2), however, did take advantage of a Cambridge throwing error in the eighth to cut the score to 5-1 and Dom Ellis had a two-run single in the ninth, but the comeback attempt fell short as the game ended when Kelaen Welch hit into a 5-3.
''I know we beat a quality team,'' Antill said after the game. ''Anytime we come down here and get a win, I'm happy. I know they have a quality program down here.''
In Wheeling's dugout, Szeligo was anything but happy with his team's performance.
He had a clear cut message for his team after the game.
''Give 100 percent. Every game. Every pitch. Every at-bat. Never give up. Play hard throughout all seven innings. A lot of our players (Tuesday) kinda quit on us and were kinda laid back and that's just unacceptable in baseball.''